UWSA general election brings out low number of voters

Megan Fultz is the new president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association. Supplied

Voter turnout remained flat in this year’s University of Winnipeg Students’ Association general election, as 1,396 students showed up to mark a ballot.

This year’s election saw Megan Fultz elected president, Andrée Forest re-elected vice-president internal, Rorie John Mcleod Arnould elected vice-president advocate and Nawal Tajdin selected for vice-president student services.

About 11.5 per cent of students cast a vote - the same as last year.

Fultz, who ran uncontested and received 999 yes votes against 86 no votes, said she is ready to lead the UWSA into a more relevant, accessible and visible position on campus.

“There are definitely some challenges the students’ association has faced with students being disengaged, that’s one of the main things we want to address,” Fultz said.

“You don’t have a students’ association without students.”

Andrée Forest, who beat out Kevin Tan in a 691-387 vote seeking re-election as VP internal, said the slated move and reopening of Soma Cafe in Lockhart Hall in September will help establish a visible, above-ground presence for the association.

“The opening ... will bring a lot of new energy,” she said.

Forest said part of the plans for Soma now include taking over the Muslim prayer space across from the cafe.

While plans for the area are being discussed, the UWSA will have to wait for construction of a new Muslim prayer space to be completed.

Forest hopes the visibility will translate into a student population more in tune with what the association is up to.

Forest believes the lack of student interest, manifested by a lack of candidates, voters and board of directors, has resulted in a quieter students’ association.

“(Years ago) we didn’t have a seat at many of the tables that we do now. There was more of a need for being loud and having that kind of a presence,” she said.

“Now we have a seat at important discussions, and we’re being taken seriously.”

Arnould, newly elected vice-president advocate, says students can expect him to approach the position with a more nuanced understanding of issues in and around campus.

Specifically, Arnould hopes to approach the U-Pass, a project of outgoing VPA Zach Fleisher, with a clearer understanding of how all students will be affected.

“The U-Pass is important, seeing as a vast majority of our students appear to take the bus to school,” said Arnould.

“Making that less expensive for them is important. However, it ultimately puts a tax on those students who choose the most sustainable forms of transportation - walking or riding a bicycle.”

Arnould, who beat out Dayne Moyer by a 620-476 vote, said he decided to run after noticing a lack of communal responsibility among students.

“Students seem to exist in a bubble,” he said.

“They come to school and focus on their own needs when they’re on campus. It’s not that external needs don’t exist, or that students don’t have values beyond themselves, but simply that students have a difficult time acting on those values,” he said.

The UWSA has appeared to focus narrowly on improving student services, and such a style of student politics has led to low voter turnouts and vacancies on the board of directors, he said.

“We have a duty and a responsibility to those less fortunate than ourselves to act in the place of inaction or we’ll not only drift into irrelevance, but perpetuate cycles of inaccessibility.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 21, 2013)

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